Scapulothoracic bursitis as a significant cause of breast and chest wall pain: Underrecognized and undertreated

Cristiano Boneti, SuEllen (Candy) Arentz, V. Suzanne Klimberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Objectives: Pain is one of the most commonly reported breast complaints. Referred pain from inflammation of the shoulder bursa is often overlooked as a cause of breast pain. The objective of this study is to evaluate the role of shoulder bursitis as a cause of breast/chest pain. Method: An IRB-approved retrospective review from July 2005 to September 2009 identified 461 patients presenting with breast/chest pain. Cases identified with a trigger point in the medial aspect of the ipsilateral scapula were treated with a bursitis injection at the point of maximum tenderness. The bursitis injection contains a mixture of local anesthetic and corticosteroid. Presenting complaint, clinical response and associated factors were recorded and treated with descriptive statistics. Results: Average age of the study group was 53.4 ± 12.7 years, and average BMI was 30.4 ± 7.4. One hundred and three patients were diagnosed with shoulder bursitis as the cause of breast pain and received the bursitis injection. Most cases (81/103 or 78.6%) presented with the breast/chest as the site of most significant discomfort, where 8.7% (9/103) had the most severe pain at the shoulder, 3.9% (4/103) at the axilla and 3.9% (4/103) at the medial scapular border. Of the treated patients, 83.5% (86/103) had complete relief of the pain, 12.6% (13/103) had improvement of symptoms with some degree of residual pain, and only 3.9%(4/103) did not respond at all to the treatment. The most commonly associated factor to the diagnosis of bursitis was the history of a previous mastectomy, present in 27.2% (28/103) of the cases. Conclusions: Shoulder bursitis represents a significant cause of breast/chest pain (22.3% or 103/461) and can be successfully treated with a local injection at site of maximum tenderness in the medial scapular border.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAnnals of Surgical Oncology
Issue numberSUPPL. 3
StatePublished - Oct 1 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Oncology


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